Other Noted Missouri Nurses

Emma L. Warr
Emma L. Warr, ca. 1906

Emma L. Warr, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was one of the leaders in the growth of nursing in Missouri in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She received her professional training at the New York Hospital School for Nurses and completed some additional study of nursing and hospital administration in Europe. Warr arrived in St. Louis in April 1884 to assume the position of superintendent of the St. Louis Training School for Nurses, based at the St. Louis City Hospital. The conditions Warr found at the hospital were inadequate – there were no other trained nurses. Patients measured and took their medicine unsupervised, roaches and rodents scurried around the wards, and a watchman was the only member of the night staff. Doctors did not know what nurses should do to assist them and medical interns objected to working with nurses, viewing them as competitors. Within four years Warr and her students had complete responsibility for nursing care in all but two divisions of the hospital. In 1895 Warr proposed expanding the two-year training program by another year. Plans were shelved, however, when the St. Louis City Hospital was destroyed by a tornado that year. Warr successfully started the three-year curriculum when the City Hospital was rebuilt and reopened in 1905.

During her tenure as superintendent of the St. Louis Training School for Nurses, over 200 women graduated with a degree in nursing. Warr oversaw the establishment of a 40-room training clinic and dormitory for the students and an expanded educational program from 80 hours of lectures by doctors to more than 2 years of daily classroom activity. Warr was also active in the movement to pass state laws recognizing and licensing nurses as professionals. Upon her retirement from the St. Louis Training School for Nurses in 1909, Warr set up a private placement agency for qualified, educated nurses. Warr died in April 1937.

Mance Taylor
Mance Taylor (Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri-Columbia Archives)

Mance Taylor was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1881. She graduated from the St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1908 and later also completed a year of study at Teachers College, Columbia University – the first university to offer advanced education for nurses. Taylor returned to St. Louis and St. Luke’s Hospital, serving as head nurse and superintendent of nurses.

In the months leading up to the United States’ entry into the First World War, Taylor joined Base Hospital 21 as assistant chief nurse. Taylor sailed to France with the unit in May 1917. When chief nurse Julia Stimson left Base Hospital 21 in April 1918, Mance Taylor became chief nurse of the unit. After returning from the war, Taylor became principal of the School for Nurses of the University of Missouri in January 1920. Taylor was instrumental in the conversion of the University’s hospital training school for nurses into a collegiate, degree-granting institution with a five-year course of instruction leading to the R.N. in Nursing and the A.B. degree from the University. To combat low enrollment, Mance Taylor made frequent trips to high schools in Missouri to interest girls in enrolling in the University of Missouri School for Nurses.

Taylor led the University’s School for Nurses until July 1926, when she resigned to pursue further training in public health nursing.

Louise Hilligass
Louise Hilligass, ca. 1918

Louise Hilligass, born in Jacksonville, Illinois, was also graduated from the St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1908. Hilligass worked as a private duty nurse, working 20 hours a day, as was the custom at that time. She then became night superintendent at St. Luke’s Hospital. In May 1917 Hilligass joined Base Hospital 21 and sailed to France with the unit. After her return from the war, Louise Hilligass was appointed head nurse of the University of Missouri’s Parker Memorial Hospital and an instructor in the nursing school. In May 1926 Hilligass became superintendent of nurses; she held that position until 1942. On January 1, 1943 Hilligass became superintendent of nurses at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, a position she held until 1955. She died on July 2, 1958.

Ruby Potter
Ruby Potter (Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri-Columbia Archives)

Ruby Potter, a native of Mendota, Missouri, received a degree in nursing from the University of Missouri’s School of Nursing in 1929. She worked at the University of Missouri hospital before leaving to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing education from the University of California at Berkeley. Potter then taught and supervised at other university-based schools of nursing before returning to Columbia and joining the faculty of the University of Missouri in 1940 as an instructor in nursing. In 1942 Potter was appointed principal of the school; she left in September 1945 to obtain experience in a larger school of nursing. For most of the next 10 years Potter served as assistant director and assistant professor of nursing of the Washington University School of Nursing in St. Louis. Potter returned to the University of Missouri in 1956 as director of the School of Nursing and professor of nursing. Her title was changed in 1961 to associate dean of the School of Medicine, in charge of the School of Nursing. Under her direction, the School’s baccalaureate nursing program was accredited by the National League for Nursing and a master’s program in nursing was established. Ruby Potter retired in August 1973; she died in July 1989.